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Publication numberUS20090156218 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/955,644
Publication dateJun 18, 2009
Filing dateDec 13, 2007
Priority dateDec 13, 2007
Also published asUS8843638
Publication number11955644, 955644, US 2009/0156218 A1, US 2009/156218 A1, US 20090156218 A1, US 20090156218A1, US 2009156218 A1, US 2009156218A1, US-A1-20090156218, US-A1-2009156218, US2009/0156218A1, US2009/156218A1, US20090156218 A1, US20090156218A1, US2009156218 A1, US2009156218A1
InventorsDeepak Garg, Gopal Harikumar, Fugui Wang
Original AssigneeAirvana, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Handing off active connections
US 20090156218 A1
Abstract
A connection is established between an access terminal and a first radio network controller through a first radio node. The first radio node is controllable primarily by the first radio network controller. The connection is maintained with the first radio network controller as the access terminal moves from a coverage area of the first radio node toward a coverage area of a second radio node. The second radio node is controllable primarily by a second radio network controller and controllable subordinately by the first radio network controller. A connection is also established through the second radio node. Upon a fulfillment of a predetermined criterion, the connection is transferred from the first radio network controller to the second radio network controller.
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Claims(17)
1. A method comprising:
establishing a connection between an access terminal and a first radio network controller through a first radio node, the first radio node being controllable primarily by the first radio network controller,
maintaining the connection with the first radio network controller as the access terminal moves from a coverage area of the first radio node toward a coverage area of a second radio node, the second radio node being controllable primarily by a second radio network controller and controllable subordinately by the first radio network controller,
also establishing the connection through the second radio node, and
upon a fulfillment of a predetermined criterion, transferring the connection from the first radio network controller to the second radio network controller.
2. The method of claim 1 in which the first and second radio network controllers are located in different subnets.
3. The method of claim 1 in which the criterion is fulfilled when the first radio node is dropped from an active set of the access terminal.
4. The method of claim 3 in which the first radio node is dropped from the active set of the access terminal when a strength of a signal of the first radio node falls below a minimum threshold.
5. The method of claim 1 in which the criterion is fulfilled when a strength of a signal of the first radio node falls below a minimum threshold.
6. The method of claim 1 in which the connection uses the Ev-DO, CDMA2000, W-CDMA, HSUPA, HSDPA, HSPA, or LTE telecommunications standard.
7. The method of claim 1 in which the connection uses voice over IP (VoIP) protocol.
8. The method of claim 1 in which the first radio node is also controlled by a third radio network controller.
9. The method of claim 1 in which the second radio network controller continues to control the session until a predetermined criterion is fulfilled.
10. The method of claim 9 in which the criterion is fulfilled when the active set of the access terminal contains only radio nodes that are controlled subordinately by the second radio network controller.
11. The method of claim 1 in which the second radio node sends the second RNC's address to the first RNC.
12. A method comprising:
establishing a connection between an access terminal and a first radio network controller, through both a first radio node and a second radio node,
maintaining the connection with the first radio network controller as the access terminal moves from a coverage area of the first radio node toward a coverage area of a second radio node,
transferring the connection to a second radio network controller,
maintaining the connection with the second radio network controller as the access terminal returns toward the coverage area of the first radio node, and
transferring the connection to the first radio network controller once an active set of the access terminal contains no radio nodes primarily controllable by the second radio network controller.
13. An apparatus comprising:
a first radio network controller to
establish a connection with an access terminal through a first radio node, the first radio node being controllable primarily by the first radio network controller,
maintain the connection as the access terminal moves from the coverage area of the first radio node toward a coverage area of a second radio node, the second radio node being controllable primarily by a second radio network controller and controllable subordinately by the first radio network controller,
also establish the connection through the second radio node, and
upon a fulfillment of a predetermined criterion, transfer the connection from the first radio network controller to the second radio network controller.
14. A computer program stored on a computer-readable medium, comprising instructions to cause a radio network controller to:
establish a connection to an access terminal through a first radio node, the first radio node being controllable primarily by the first radio network controller,
maintain the connection as the access terminal moves from the coverage area of the first radio node toward the coverage area of a second radio node, the second radio node being controllable primarily by a second radio network controller and controllable subordinately by the first radio network controller,
also establish the connection through the second radio node, and
upon a fulfillment of a predetermined criterion, transfer the connection from the first radio network controller to the second radio network controller.
15. A system comprising:
a first radio network controller, a second radio network controller, a first radio node, and a second radio node,
in which the first radio network controller is configured to establish a connection to an access terminal through the first radio node, the first radio node being controlled primarily by the first radio network controller,
the first radio network controller is configured to maintain the connection as the access terminal moves from the coverage area of the first radio node toward the coverage area of the second radio node, the second radio node being controllable primarily by the second radio network controller and controllable subordinately by the first radio network controller,
the first radio network controller is configured to also establish the connection through the second radio node, and
the second radio network controller is configured to assume control of the initiated connection upon the fulfillment of a predetermined criterion.
16. The system of claim 15 in which the first radio node is also controlled by a third radio network controller.
17. The system of claim 15 in which the first and second radio network controllers are located in different subnets.
Description
BACKGROUND

This disclosure relates to active handoffs between radio networks.

Cellular wireless communications systems are designed to serve many access terminals distributed in a large geographic area by dividing the area into cells, as shown in FIG. 1. At or near the center of each cell 102, 104, 106, a radio network access point 108, 110, 112, also referred to as a radio node (RN) or base transceiver station (BTS), is located to serve access terminals 114, 116 (e.g., cellular telephones, laptops, PDAs) located in the cell. Access terminals (AT) are sometimes referred to as mobile stations (MS) or user equipment (UE). Each cell is often further divided into sectors 102 a-c, 104 a-c, 106 a-c by using multiple sectorized antennas. An RN is identified by one or more of several properties, which may include the offset of a pseudonoise pattern in its pilot signal (PN offset), a frequency, an IP address, or a SectorID. In each cell, that cell's radio network access point may serve one or more sectors and may communicate with multiple access terminals in its cell.

When an access terminal moves from one sector or cell to another and control of the access terminal is transitioned between different network elements, the transfer is referred to as handoff. If the access terminal has a call in progress during handoff, the handoff is said to be active. Co-pending patent application Ser. No. 11/037,896, filed Jan. 18, 2005, and titled Radio Network Control, also assigned to Airvana, Inc., described active handoffs in partially-connected radio networks. The type of handoff described in that application is now standardized as the A16 interface in the TIA-878-B standard. According to the standard, A16 handoff is a hard handoff, such that during the handoff, the source radio network controller cannot add the target radio node to its active set, and the target radio network controller cannot add the source radio node to its active set.

SUMMARY

In general, in one aspect, a connection is established between an access terminal and a first radio network controller through a first radio node. The first radio node is controllable primarily by the first radio network controller. The connection is maintained with the first radio network controller as the access terminal moves from a coverage area of the first radio node toward a coverage area of a second radio node. The second radio node is controllable primarily by a second radio network controller and controllable subordinately by the first radio network controller. A connection is also established through the second radio node. Upon a fulfillment of a predetermined criterion, the connection is transferred from the first radio network controller to the second radio network controller.

Implementations may include one or more of the following features. The first and second radio network controllers are located in different subnets. The criterion is fulfilled when the first radio node is dropped from an active set of the access terminal. The first radio node is dropped from the active set of the access terminal when a strength of a signal of the first radio node falls below a minimum threshold. The criterion is fulfilled when a strength of a signal of the first radio node falls below a minimum threshold. The connection uses the Ev-DO, CDMA2000, W-CDMA, HSUPA, HSDPA, HSPA, or LTE telecommunications standard. The connection uses voice over IP (VoIP) protocol. The first radio node is also controlled by a third radio network controller. The second radio network controller continues to control the session until a predetermined criterion is fulfilled. The criterion is fulfilled when the active set of the access terminal contains only radio nodes that are controlled subordinately by the second radio network controller. The second radio node sends the second RNC's address to the first RNC.

In general, in one aspect, a connection is established between an access terminal and a first radio network controller, through both a first radio node and a second radio node. The connection is maintained with the first radio network controller as the access terminal moves from a coverage area of the first radio node toward a coverage area of a second radio node. The connection is transferred to a second radio network controller. The connection is maintained with the second radio network controller as the access terminal returns toward the coverage area of the first radio node. The connection is transferred to the first radio network controller once an active set of the access terminal contains no radio nodes primarily controllable by the second radio network controller.

DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a radio area network.

FIG. 2 is a flow chart.

FIG. 3 is a messaging diagram.

Referring to FIG. 1, in some examples, a radio access network (RAN) 100 uses an Ev-DO protocol to transmit data packets between an access terminal, e.g., access terminals 114 and 116, and a radio node, e.g., radio nodes 108, 110, 112. The radio nodes are connected over a backhaul connection 118 to radio network control/packet data serving nodes (RNC/PDSN) 120, which may be one or more physical devices at different locations. Each cell may be divided into sectors 102 a-c, 104 a-c, 106 a-c by antennas as noted above. In each cell, that cell's radio network access point may serve one or more sectors and may communicate with multiple access terminals in its cell. Although this description uses terminology from Ev-DO standards, the same concepts are applicable to other communication methods, including Code Division Multiple Access 2000 (CDMA2000); Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (W-CDMA); High-Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA); High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA); High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA), Long Term Evolution (LTE), and the like.

In some examples, as shown in FIG. 2, multihoming allows a single radio node 202 to be controlled by two or more radio network controllers 208 and 210. Traditionally, RNs located within a subnet of a radio area network are controlled by only one RNC located within the same subnet. In contrast, a multihoming system works by associating RNs located near a subnet boundary 220 with at least two RNCs 208 and 210. In some examples, such as that illustrated by FIG. 2, the RNCs 208 and 210 that jointly control the RN 202 are located in different subnets 216 and 218.

When one RN 202 is multihomed, i.e., controlled by two RNCs 208 and 210, we describe one of the RNCs as the primary RNC, and we describe the other RNC as the secondary RNC. In the example of FIG. 2, the RN 202 is multihomed to the RNCs 208 and 210. For purposes of this example, the RNC 208 is the primary RNC, shown by a solid line 205, and the RNC 210 is the secondary RNC, shown by a dashed line 207. We say the RN 202 is primarily homed to the primary RNC 208 and secondarily homed to the secondary RNC 210. There may be more than one secondary RNC.

In its broadest sense, a node is considered to be multihomed if that node has multiple ways of reaching a destination. In the context of mobile wireless networks and the example of FIG. 2, the destination is the packet data serving node (PDSN) 214, and RNs 202 and 204 that are multihomed may communicate with a PDSN 214 through at least two different RNCs 208 and 210. By using multihoming, the functions of the primary RNC are assumed by the secondary RNC when the primary RNC becomes unavailable (e.g., when the AT moves out of range of any RN controlled by the primary RNC), or less desirable (e.g., the AT moves closer to an RN located within the control of the secondary RNC). Uninterrupted connectivity can be achieved if at least one connection to the PDSN is maintained.

When an AT 212 is in handoff from one RNC to another, the RNC 208 originally controlling the AT 212 is the serving RNC, and the RNC 210 to which control is being transferred is the target RNC. When the radio node 202 is multihomed, its primary RNC 208 may be the serving RNC for the AT 212 that is moving to the second RN 204, which happens to be primarily homed to the first RN's secondary RNC 210, such that the first RN's secondary RNC is the target RNC. At the same time, from that second RN 204's point of view, it's primary RNC 210 is the target RNC for the incoming AT 212, and the serving RNC is the secondary RNC 208.

In some examples, as the AT moves from the coverage area of one RN to the coverage area of another RN, it sends a RouteUpdate message to its serving RNC. The RouteUpdate message indicates the identification and strength of any compatible radio nodes' pilot signals that the AT can detect at its current location. The serving RNC uses the RouteUpdate message to trigger and perform normal soft handoffs, in which the AT is transitioned to another RN controlled by the same RNC without dropping any active calls. Through these RouteUpdate messages, the serving RNC obtains a fairly accurate assessment of where the AT is located. The RNC uses this information to trigger an active RNC handoff.

An AT's “active set” refers to the set of available RNs whose pilot signals are received by the AT and are sufficiently strong to remain in communication with the AT. Thus, if an AT were being served by both RN1 and RN2, its active set would be the pilot signals for both RN1 and RN2, which we represent in the parenthetical form (RN1, RN2). An RN is dropped from an AT's active set when its pilot falls below a certain minimum strength threshold. In traditional wireless networks, all the RNs in an ATs active set must be controlled by the same RNC.

In traditional wireless networks using the TIA-878-B standard, an AT crossing the boundary between two RNCs needs to end communication with the serving RNC in order to establish a communication link with the target RNC. These A16 handoffs are “hard handoffs” because while the AT is controlled by the source RNC, it cannot add a target RN controlled only by the target RNC to its active set, and once controlled by the target RNC, the AT could not keep the source RN controlled only by the source RNC in its active set. Because of the lack of overlap in the active sets before and after handoff, a connection cannot be maintained.

In some examples, enhancements to the handoff methods in multi-homed networks allow an A16 handoff to be converted into a soft handoff, rather than a hard handoff. This allows more robust handoffs to take place between radio nodes that otherwise would be controlled by separate radio network controllers, requiring hard handoff, and for active calls to be handed off without being dropped.

To provide a multi-homed handoff, each RN associates a single traffic channel with the two (or more) RNCs that are controlling it. In some examples, one or two layers of RNs of each subnet, generally those near the boundary 220 between subnets 216 and 218, are secondarily homed to the RNC controlling the RNs on the other subnet, which will be the target RNC when an AT is handed off across the boundary. With the bordering RNs homed to both source and target RNCs, the AT is able to add the pilots signals of target RNs to its active set when it is located near a boundary, and to keep the source RNs in its active set during the handoff. The primary RNC knows that the AT is near the subnet boundary when the AT begins to report pilots from both RNs in the RouteUpdate message.

When the AT 212 is in transition range (e.g., near a subnet boundary 220, shown as position t1 in FIG. 2), all the RNs in the active set are homed to both RNCs 208 and 210, such that the active set is the same immediately before and after handoff between the two RNCs. Before the AT is in range (e.g., where the AT 212 is at position t0), its active set includes RNs of only the original serving RNC. After the AT moves past the transition range (e.g., where AT 212 is at position t2), as discussed below, the RNs of the original serving RNC 208 are removed, so that the active set includes RNs of only the target RNC 210. In both cases, the transition to and from the joint active set is done with standard soft handoff. While the active set is (RN1, RN2), the AT 212 may begin using the RN2 204. Thus, when the AT moves from the RN1 202 toward the RN2 204, with the RNC subnet boundary 220 between the two, the active set transitions as: (RN1)→(RN1, RN2)→(RN2). Because communication with at least one RN is preserved throughout the handoff, each handoff is soft and connectivity is maintained without interruption.

Handoff is triggered when a predetermined criterion is fulfilled. For example, as the AT 212 moves away from the first subnet 216, the strength of the pilot signal of the RN 202 will decrease until the RN is dropped form the AT's active set. The target RNC is then selected based on the strongest pilot in the AT's active set. When all the pilots in the AT's active set are only secondarily homed to the serving RNC, control of the AT, including any initiated connections, is transferred to the target RNC. Referring to FIG. 2 as an example, when the AT reaches position t2 and drops RN1 from its actives set, the only RN left in the active set is RN2, which is primarily homed to the target RNC2 210 and only secondarily homed to the source RNC1 208. By triggering handoff at this point, rather than waiting until the AT moves so far into the subnet 218 that the serving RNC 208 may not be homed to any RNs, both the serving RNC 208 and the target RNC 210 can access the RNs in the active set during handoff.

Delaying handoff until all RNs primarily homed to the source RNC are dropped from the active set helps prevent handoff ping-pong, where an AT that stays near the subnet border is continually handed off, back and forth between the two subnets. If the AT 212 moves back toward the subnet boundary 220, it will add the RN1 202 back into the active set, but it will not handoff back to the RNC 208 unless it moves so far into the subnet 216 that the RN2 204 is dropped. As long as the AT stays near the boundary 220, the active set will include RNs primarily homed to both RNCs and handoff will not take place. Delaying handoff also reduces the amount of A16 session transfer latency and the number of dropped calls, as the active set remains the same during the A16 handoff.

To facilitate this type of handoff, the target RN 204 sends its primary RNC's 210 address (e.g., an IP address if an IP backhaul network is used to connect the RNCs and RNs) to its secondary RNC 208. With this information, the serving (secondary to RN 204) RNC 208 can find the target (primary as to RN 204) RNC 210 automatically rather than through operator configuration.

Relevant elements of the flow of messaging and control to implement multihomed soft handoff is shown in FIG. 3. The A16 handoff is triggered 300 when RN1 is dropped from the AT's active set and the AT informs the source RNC1 about the change. The session configuration is locked 302 to avoid session configuration change in the middle of a handoff. Next, the source RNC1 sends 304 an A16 transfer request to the target RNC2. The RN2 associates 306 the existing traffic channel over which it serving the AT with the target RNC2. This will allow the active connection to be transferred to RNC2 without dropping. Once the traffic channel is associated with RNC2, RNC2 and RNC1 acknowledge completion of the transfer by sending 308 A16 transfer response and A16 transfer complete messages, respectively.

The RNC2 next sets up 310 an A10 connection to the PDSN and resets 312 the RLP flows with the AT. The former A10 connection from the RNC1 to the PDSN is torn down 314, and the target RNC2 assigns 316 a new Unicast Access Terminal Identifier (UATI) to the AT. A16 Release and Release acknowledge signals are exchanged 318 between the RNC1 208 and RNC2 210 to let the source RNC release the session. The session configuration is then unlocked 320. Some time later, the connection between the AT 212 and the target RN2 204 is closed 322 and A13 release request and response messages are exchanged 324 between the RNCs. The A13 release request is sent to the source RNC which requests that the source RNC release the UATI assigned by said source RNC, finally completing the handoff.

The techniques described herein can be implemented in digital electronic circuitry, or in computer hardware, firmware, software, or in combinations of them. The techniques can be implemented as a computer program product, i.e., a computer program tangibly embodied in an information carrier, e.g., in a machine-readable storage device or in a propagated signal, for execution by, or to control the operation of, data processing apparatus, e.g., a programmable processor, a computer, or multiple computers. A computer program can be written in any form of programming language, including compiled or interpreted languages, and it can be deployed in any form, including as a stand-alone program or as a module, component, subroutine, or other unit suitable for use in a computing environment. A computer program can be deployed to be executed on one computer or on multiple computers at one site or distributed across multiple sites and interconnected by a communication network.

Method steps of the techniques described herein can be performed by one or more programmable processors executing a computer program to perform functions of the invention by operating on input data and generating output. Method steps can also be performed by, and apparatus of the invention can be implemented as, special purpose logic circuitry, e.g., an FPGA (field programmable gate array) or an ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit). Modules can refer to portions of the computer program and/or the processor/special circuitry that implements that functionality.

Processors suitable for the execution of a computer program include, by way of example, both general and special purpose microprocessors, and any one or more processors of any kind of digital computer. Generally, a processor will receive instructions and data from a read-only memory or a random access memory or both. The essential elements of a computer are a processor for executing instructions and one or more memory devices for storing instructions and data. Generally, a computer will also include, or be operatively coupled to receive data from or transfer data to, or both, one or more mass storage devices for storing data, e.g., magnetic, magneto-optical disks, or optical disks. Information carriers suitable for embodying computer program instructions and data include all forms of non-volatile memory, including by way of example semiconductor memory devices, e.g., EPROM, EEPROM, and flash memory devices; magnetic disks, e.g., internal hard disks or removable disks; magneto-optical disks; and CD-ROM and DVD-ROM disks. The processor and the memory can be supplemented by, or incorporated in special purpose logic circuitry.

To provide for interaction with a user, the techniques described herein can be implemented on a computer having a display device, e.g., a CRT (cathode ray tube) or LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor, for displaying information to the user and a keyboard and a pointing device, e.g., a mouse or a trackball, by which the user can provide input to the computer (e.g., interact with a user interface element, for example, by clicking a button on such a pointing device). Other kinds of devices can be used to provide for interaction with a user as well; for example, feedback provided to the user can be any form of sensory feedback, e.g., visual feedback, auditory feedback, or tactile feedback; and input from the user can be received in any form, including acoustic, speech, or tactile input.

The techniques described herein can be implemented in a distributed computing system that includes a back-end component, e.g., as a data server, and/or a middleware component, e.g., an application server, and/or a front-end component, e.g., a client computer having a graphical user interface and/or a Web browser through which a user can interact with an implementation of the invention, or any combination of such back-end, middleware, or front-end components. The components of the system can be interconnected by any form or medium of digital data communication, e.g., a communication network. Examples of communication networks include a local area network (“LAN”) and a wide area network (“WAN”), e.g., the Internet, and include both wired and wireless networks.

The computing system can include clients and servers. A client and server are generally remote from each other and typically interact over a communication network. The relationship of client and server arises by virtue of computer programs running on the respective computers and having a client-server relationship to each other.

Other embodiments are within the scope of the following claims and other claims to which the applicant may be entitled. The following are examples for illustration only and do not limit the alternatives in any way.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification455/442
International ClassificationH04Q7/22
Cooperative ClassificationH04W36/0088, H04W36/0083, H04W36/0094, H04W36/0016, H04W36/10, H04W36/0005, H04W36/02
European ClassificationH04W36/10
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